If you want to learn what the top four predictors of divorce are—and how to avoid them—then you’ll first want to know a little something about John Gottman—the guy who conducted this groundbreaking research starting in 1992.

Dr. John Gottman was a psychologist who studied relationship and marriage stability, along with his wife Dr. Julie Gottman. Together, they founded The Gottman Institute. Through a series of landmark studies, Dr. Gottman was able to predict with 94 percent accuracy whether or not the couples he studied would get divorced within six years.

How’d he do it? He looked for four traits in the couples’ relationships, which he coined the”4 horsemen of the apocalypse”.

According to Zach Brittle, MA, LMHC, a Certified Gottman Therapist and author of The Relationship Alphabet, “The Four Horsemen are—simply put—behaviors that, when unchecked, are predictors of divorce. Each of them represents unkind and unkempt strategies that partners often employ with one another,” he explains. That’s why “It’s really important that couples protect their relationship from the Four Horsemen,” if you want to avoid divorce.


“Criticism is like offering a negative opinion of someone because they didn’t meet an expectation. An example would be telling your partner, ‘You’re an idiot!’ because they couldn’t find their car keys,” explains marriage counselor Dr. Eric Williams, PhD, LPCS, LMFT, NCC, founder of Coastal Family Services in Fayetteville, NC. 

“This is damaging to a relationship because, instead of inviting a conversation of emotional connectedness, you invite a conversation of emotional and verbal attacks,” he says, “which usually results in a vicious cycle.”


“Contempt, also known as the single greatest predictor of divorce, is when you attack your partner’s character with a sense of moral superiority,” Dr. Williams explains. “For example, not only do you call your partner an idiot, you also tell them how they are a horrible parent, just like their mother. Not only have you criticized them, you have asserted yourself as the ‘expert’ of morality and all things true.” 

Susan Winter, relationship expert and best-selling author of Older Women/Younger Men, adds that this type of behavior is especially damaging, because “Contempt is a vile form of toxic hatred that stings to the core and corrodes the presence of love.” No marriage can thrive under those conditions!

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